HBO Max lives… for now. But the streamer isn’t long for this life in its current form. During a Warner Bros. Discovery earnings call, where we also learned more about Batgirl‘s cancellation and DC’s future, the company shared the news many saw coming, but not many are happy about. HBO Max and Discovery+ plus will combine into a brand-new offering, and now we have a timeline for when this will all take place. Say whatever sentimental goodbyes you have to HBO Max starting now because it will be replaced with an all-new product earlier than expected in the spring of 2023. And the process of this merging has already resulted in some changes, including a price increase and some content sacrifices… Including the letters HBO. According to CNBC, Warner Bros. Discovery is eying the name “Max” for its new platform.
Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t reveal much about this product so far, though. We didn’t get to see a new official HBO Max plus Discovery+ name, logo, or interface or anything like that. What the company did share was that this would be a single, global brand that put customer experience and quality first. The new platform will combine the “best of both” platforms and have capabilities such as on-demand and have live TV, ad-free, ad-lite, and ad-only options.
Content Loss on HBO Max
During the call, executives mentioned that HBO Max often had difficulty supporting a certain scale of audience. Discovery+, meanwhile, had much better technological infrastructure behind it. Although Warner Bros. Discovery’s executives noted they supported HBO Max’s content, fans of the current shows streaming on the platforms feel nervous. And rightfully so, already Warner Bros. Discovery has canceled movies including Batgirl, Wonder Twins, and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt. Other Warner Bros. streaming exclusive movies were also removed from HBO Max without warning. Shockingly, HBO Max also lost some high-profile originals. Shows like Westworld were removed suddenly from the platform.
The latest shows cut include Looney Tunes and Flintstones. Specifically, hundreds of episodes of Looney Tunes shorts vanished from the platform. Seasons 16-31 of Looney Tunes are no longer available on HBO Max, that’s 256 episodes that were released from 1950 to 2004. Although there seemed to be unclear narratives around this removal, HBO Max appears to have confirmed the episodes will not return. The culprit appears to be a licensing agreement that was not renewed. This development keeps in the theme of losses in the realm of animated and unscripted content.
Although it’s unclear if everything removed from HBO Max will become viewable again, some content will find a new home. According to Deadline, Roku and Tubi will become the free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels of choice for Warner Bros. Discovery and its cut content. Beginning around spring 2023 on Roku and as early as February 1 on Tubi, shows like Westworld and The Nevers will once again be available to watch.
Potentially, this may become more and more the norm for HBO. Content CEO Casey Bloys notes to Variety, “does every single library show that we have on HBO Max need to be exclusive to HBO Max? I would say no,” Bloys says. “People kind of forget the history of television was windows, DVDs. These are expensive shows to make. The idea that they’re going to sit in a library forever and ever for $15 a month, that’s never how TV has operated.” And this idea thus leads to HBO “syndicating” its content on FAST channels.
Although sudden content culling is a worrying trend that calls into question the safety of finished works on streaming, it is a relief to hear at least some content will find a new home.
HBO Max Subscription Cost Increase
On top of everything else, the subscription cost of HBO Max also increased without warning. Effective, January 12, 2023, HBO Max will now cost $15.99 instead of $14.99. It might seem like a small increase, but HBO Max is already one of the more costly subscription services. For those already subscribed, the new cost will come into play during their next billing cycle on or after February 11, 2023.
A release notes, “This price increase of one dollar will allow us to continue to invest in providing even more culture-defining programming and improving our customer experience for all users.”
Project Popcorn and the Potential Scope of the HBO Max/Discovery+ Product
Additionally, much to the chagrin of HBO Max’s audiences, it seems like the platform will be doing away with its 45-day theatrical window to streaming initiative for Warner Bros. movies. Per Decider, the company will be moving away from “Project Popcorn.” This project meant that after being in theaters for 45 days, Warner Bros. movies would come to stream on HBO Max. It was an especially welcome initiative during the pandemic. Now, it sounds like the company will decide when theatrical movies will stream on a “case-by-case basis.”
It’s presently unclear when the company will stop honoring the 45-day window. Warner Bros. Discovery also shared an interesting view of both HBO Max and Discovery+ and what they bring to the table, adding to the disquiet. We will have to wait and see what this means for the shows, primarily on HBO Max, that don’t fit into the purview of this very narrow outline. And what it means for viewers, as well.
After the platform launches in the United States during the spring of 2023, the HBO Max and Discovery+ product will roll out in Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Warner Bros. Discovery aims to complete the roll-out by fall of 2024. Fingers crossed it goes… well.
Originally published on August 18, 2022.